Rockfield Studios

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Rockfield Studios
IndustryMusic
Founded1963; 60 years ago (1963)
FounderKingsley and Charles Ward
Headquarters,
Wales
Websiterockfieldmusicgroup.com

Rockfield Studios is a residential recording studio located in the Wye Valley just outside the village of Rockfield, Monmouthshire, Wales. It was originally founded in 1963 by brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward.

Facilities[edit]

Rockfield is a two-studio facility consisting of The Coach House and The Quadrangle. Both studios reside within converted solid-stone farm buildings. One of the world's first residential recording studios, Rockfield offers living accommodations for clients recording at the studio for an extended period of time.[1]

The Coach House[edit]

The entrance to the studios

Constructed in 1968, The Coach House includes a large 150-square-metre live area with stone walls, a wooden ceiling, and a Yamaha grand piano. In addition to the live room, there is one stone drum room, an acoustically variable second drum room, and two isolation booths. Recording equipment in The Coach House is based around a customised Neve 8121 recording console with vintage outboard processing, including Neve 1060 microphone amps, Rockfield's original Rosser Electronics microphone amps, API 550 equalisers and UREI 1176 compressors.[2]

Artists who have recorded in The Coach House include Oasis,[3] Bullet for My Valentine, Sepultura, Jayce Lewis, Simple Minds and Opeth.[citation needed]

The Quadrangle[edit]

Constructed in 1973, The Quadrangle offers a total of 170 square metres of recording space spread between the main area with Bösendorfer grand piano, two large variable acoustic drum rooms and three isolation booths. Recording equipment in The Quadrangle's 6m x 7m central control room is based around an MCI 500 Series in-line mixing console with outboard processing, including Neve 1061 microphone amps, Rockfield's original Rosser Electronics microphone amps, API 550 equalisers, and UREI 1176 compressors.[2]

Best known for the recording of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", The Quadrangle has hosted such notable artists as Manic Street Preachers, Robert Plant, Shop Front Heroes, and Coldplay.[citation needed]

History[edit]

Background and early history[edit]

The Ward family bought Amberley Court Farm in Rockfield in the early 1950s. Originally a Shire horse breeding centre, they ran it as a livestock farm, with 500 pigs and a herd of milking cows.[4]

Brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward were educated at Abergavenny Grammar School. While there Charles got into the early rock and roll music of Elvis Presley and began playing an acoustic guitar that he purchased for £5. In 1960 the brothers formed a band named the Charles Kingsley Combo and Kingsley wrote a couple of songs, which the brothers recorded using a tape deck borrowed from a local businessman.[5] Deciding to pursue a record deal, the brothers drove to EMI's pressing plant in Middlesex, London, but were redirected to the label's offices in Manchester Square where, on that same day without an appointment they met producer George Martin. Martin decided not to sign the brothers, but noted that the reason he was compelled to take the meeting was because they were the first artists he had seen bring a portable reel-to-reel tape deck.[6][4]

The Ward brothers returned to London the following year and met with Joe Meek at his studio. Meek signed them, and the brothers recorded songs as The Charles Kingsley Creation and as The Thunderbolts while observing Meek's studio techniques. Back home, the brothers set up a recording studio in an attic space with a Rosser Electronics mixing console and a Ferrograph tape machine. In 1961 the brothers began recording local bands in their studio, which they named Future Sounds Ltd, charging £5 per acetate.[7]

Early success[edit]

Rockfield (Studios) was an absolute dream because it was pastoral, funny and had a fantastic musical history ... I moved here and became one of these dismal, happy, sad, failed musicians that other people cross the street to avoid ... I really enjoyed my being in this Rockfield environment. I had lived in this goldfish bowl in Led Zeppelin.

Robert Plant[5]

In 1963 the Ward brothers converted an existing farmhouse into a recording studio by investing in an 8-track tape deck and lining it with pig feed bags to create sound deadening.[6][8] In 1965, they became the world's first residential studio, set up so that bands could come and stay in the peaceful rural surroundings to record.[1]

The first big hit recorded in the studios was Dave Edmunds' "I Hear You Knocking" in 1970.[1] In the early 1970s, the studios were used to record seven albums by Budgie, several by Hawkwind, one by Hobo, Peter Hammill's second solo album Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night in 1973, Ace's hit single "How Long" in 1974, and Queen's album Sheer Heart Attack. Queen first worked on developing their album A Night at the Opera and the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" for a month at Ridge Farm Studio during the summer of 1975,[9] then moved to Rockfield in August 1975 to begin recording the album, which became the band's first Platinum-selling album in the US.[10] Motörhead made their first recordings at the studios in 1975 and were, briefly, signed to the Rockfield record label.[8] Cyril Jordan of the Flamin' Groovies (who recorded at Rockfield several times between 1972 and 1978) said in 2014, "We thought Rockfield was the new Sun recording studios."[11]

Later developments[edit]

As the trend moved from rock music of the 1970s and 80's to the electronic music of the 1990s, which had a far greater use of technology and could almost be produced from a bedroom, the need for space and complex analogue recording systems reduced. Rockfield also faced more competition, with many of the main recording labels creating their own residential recording studios, such as Virgin's "The Manor".[4] With the Rockfield company facing dire financial consequences, the Ward brothers decided to split the farm, with Kingsley retaining the Rockfield half, whilst Charles refurbished a semi-derelict manor house on the opposite side of the valley to create Monnow Valley Studio.[4]

Facing financial difficulties, and with his wife Anne working full-time as a book keeper, Kingsley was approached by friend and record producer John Leckie to record the first album of Manchester band The Stone Roses.[4] Resident for 14 months to record both their first and second albums, the band saved the studio financially. The band's residency created interest from other bands, resulting in recording sessions for other bands including Oasis.[4]

During a 12-month period in 1996–97, Rockfield sessions resulted in five UK Number One albums, by Oasis, Black Grape, The Charlatans and the Boo Radleys.[1]

In July 2020 the documentary Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm, directed by Hannah Berryman, was broadcast by BBC Four.[12]

Charles Ward died on 27 July 2022.[13]

Artist roster[edit]

1960s[edit]

1970s[edit]

1980s[edit]

1990s[edit]

2000s[edit]

2010s/2020s[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Evans, Jim (February 2016). "Laid in Wales" (PDF). Resolution. S2 Publications Ltd. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b Bieger, Hannes (May 2013). "Studio File: Rockfield Studios, Wales". Sound On Sound. SOS Publications Group. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  3. ^ Marcus Hughes (18 December 2019). "Famous Welsh recording studios used by Oasis, The Stone Roses and Black Sabbath up for sale". WalesOnline. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Shuttleworth, Peter (18 July 2020). "Rockfield Studios: Where Ozzy, Oasis, Queen and Coldplay took off". BBC Wales News. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Zep singer returns to solo roots". BBC News. 20 May 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
  6. ^ a b Hallas, Tim (1 March 2019). "Inside Rockfield Studios, the legendary Monmouthshire recording retreat". MusicTech. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  7. ^ Borrows, Bill (25 July 2020). "The Welsh farm which hosted Queen, Ozzy Osborne and Coldplay". The New European. The New European Ltd. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Collins, Jeff (2007). Rock Legends At Rockfield. University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-2097-6.
  9. ^ Taylor, Roger. "The Telegraph", London, 1975
  10. ^ Davies, Jordan (5 May 2016). "Making music and history". BBC News – via bbc.co.uk.
  11. ^ Rawls, Alex (28 April 2014). "The Flamin' Groovies Can't Stop Shaking'". MySpiltMilk.com. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  12. ^ "BBC Two – Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm". BBC.
  13. ^ Scott Ng, "Charles Ward, Co-Founder Of Legendary Rockfield Studios, Has Passed Away", Guitar.com, 29 July 2022. Retrieved 2 August 2022
  14. ^ a b c d e f "Rockfield Studios – Legendary music studios". RecordProduction.com. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  15. ^ Christopulos, J., and Smart, P.: Van der Graaf Generator – The Book, p. 161-162. Phil and Jim publishers, 2005.
  16. ^ Christopulos, J., and Smart, P.: Van der Graaf Generator – The Book, p. 212. Phil and Jim publishers, 2005.
  17. ^ "Lush – Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson on Their 1994 Album "Split"". Under the Radar. Retrieved 25 September 2015.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°49′21.0″N 2°44′35.7″W / 51.822500°N 2.743250°W / 51.822500; -2.743250